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Diabetes

It can cause higher than normal levels of blood sugar and of fats like triglycerides. Over time, these could damage nerves in your hands and feet, and cause a constant or occasional burning feeling. Tell your doctor if you notice first signs, like tingling or numbness in your fingers and toes, and check in regularly to make sure you manage your diabetes in the best way.

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photo of toe being poked
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Peripheral Neuropathy

This means damage to the nerves that connect your spinal cord to your arms, legs, hands, and feet. Diabetes is the most common cause, but there are many others, such as cancer drugs (chemotherapy), kidney failure, autoimmune diseases (including rheumatoid arthritis), toxic chemicals, infection, and nutrition problems.

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Heavy Drinking

Overdoing alcohol can cause a lot of health problems. Years of drinking too much may damage nerves connected to your feet. It can also make you low on nutrients you need to keep your nerves healthy. Either or both of these problems might make your feet tingle or burn for months or years. If you quit drinking, you help improve your symptoms and stop further damage. Ask your doctor for help.

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Athlete’s Foot

Your doctor might call it “tinea pedis.” It’s a mold-like fungus that grows in warm, moist areas between your toes and on the bottom of your feet, and it may sting, itch, and burn. It thrives in damp shoes and socks and locker room floors. Switch up your footwear so they have a chance to dry, and wear flip-flops in the locker room or at public pools. Antifungal creams, sprays, or powders can help control the infection.

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Not Enough Vitamin B12

Your nerves need it to stay healthy. You may not get enough from your food, especially if you’re vegan (meaning you eat no animal products). It gets harder for your body to absorb if you’re older or if you’ve had weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass. Alcoholism also might stop you from getting enough B12, folate, thiamine, and other B vitamins.

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Chronic Kidney Failure

Your doctor might call it renal failure. It’s most commonly caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. Your kidneys slowly stop working the right way. That makes waste fluids build up in your body, which can damage nerves (uremic neuropathy), including in your feet, and cause a burning feeling.

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Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

The “tunnel” is between the ankle bone and a group of ligaments near the top of the foot. The tibial nerve inside gives sensation to the bottom of the foot. Swelling from injury, arthritis, bone spurs, fallen arches, or other conditions could push on the nerve. You might have shooting pain, numbness, and a tingling or burning feeling in your foot.

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Small Fiber Neuropathy

It often starts in the feet, with pain that stabs, burns, or itches. It could be worse at night or when you rest. Heat or cold can sometimes trigger an attack, even though the condition sometimes makes it hard to tell the difference between the two. Blood sugar problems, as with diabetes, might cause it, but sometimes the cause isn’t clear. Certain genes make you more likely to get it.

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Hypothyroidism

It’s when your thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, doesn’t make enough hormone, which means your body won’t burn energy as quickly. You might be tired, constipated, sensitive to cold, forgetful, and less interested in sex. You also might have burning feet. Doctors aren’t sure why, but it may be that over the long term, the condition causes you to keep too much fluid, which pushes on your nerves.

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Amyloidosis

An abnormal protein made in your bone marrow builds up in different parts of the body. You might not notice it until it’s advanced. Then you may be very tired and weak with skin that thickens and bruises easily, and you may have purple patches around the eyes. Extra fluid can collect. Swelling ankles and legs could put pressure on nerves and cause tingling and burning in your feet. There’s no cure, but treatment can ease your symptoms.

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Erythromelalgia

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes it, but it could be that your blood vessels don’t widen or narrow the right way. Your skin may get red, hot, and swollen, with burning, most often in your feet, but in your hands too. An attack could last minutes or days. A dip in ice water can bring relief but also might trigger symptoms. Your doctor can let you know about pills and skin lotions with medicine that will ease your symptoms.

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HIV and AIDS

About a third of people with HIV or AIDS end up with damage to their nerves. The virus itself can hurt your nerves, and the drugs used to control it can, too. Illnesses you get because your immune system is weaker, like herpes, tuberculosis, and thrush, might also do it. You may have stiffness, tingling, numbness, and burning in your toes and the soles of your feet. Your doctor can help figure out the cause and best treatment.

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Contact Dermatitis

A detergent, soap, cleaner, wax, or any chemical could irritate your skin. Health care workers, florists, hairdressers, machinists, and cleaners get it more often. You might have an allergic reaction within a few hours, or it might happen over a longer period of time, as a chemical wears down the top, oily, protective layer of skin. Tell your doctor about your symptoms. Treatment depends on the cause.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 11/04/2018 Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on November 04, 2018

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SOURCES

Cleveland Clinic: “Contact Dermatitis,” “Hypothyroidism,” “Peripheral neuropathy.”

Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy: “Kidney Failure,” “Nutritional and Vitamin Deficiency Neuropathy,” “Alcohol,” “Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Small Fiber Sensory Neuropathy,” “Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.”

Journal of the American Osteopathic Association: “Nutritional Deficiencies After Gastric Bypass Surgery.”

Mayo Clinic: “Amyloidosis,” “Hypothyroidism: Can it cause peripheral neuropathy?” “Vitamin B12.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Diabetes and Foot Problems,” “Diabetic Neuropathy.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Peripheral Neuropathy.”

National Organization for Rare Disorders: “Erythromelalgia.”

NIH Genetics Home Reference: “Small fiber neuropathy.” 

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on November 04, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.